Season preview: No one believes in the Canucks except themselves
Pundits, pundits, and analytical models all seem to be on the same page: The 2021-22 Vancouver Canucks are not a playoff team.
“We have to make the playoffs next year,” Vancouver Canucks general manager Jim Benning said late last season. Then he spent the entire offseason revising the Canucks’ roster, going so far as to trade the team’s first-round pick – ninth overall – to do so.
What has all this hard work done? According to most experts, not much.
Very few pundits, pundits, and analytical models project the Canucks as a playoff team this season. In fact, the Canucks might want to set up a Ted Lasso sign “believe” in their locker room and give it a few punches before every game because no one else seems to believe in them right now.
The Canucks, at least, believe in themselves.
“This year, especially with the guys we added … I think we have a really good base group,” said captain Bo Horvat. “I think we should set our expectations for making the playoffs. That’s what we want to do and that’s how we have to play from the start.”
This conviction extends to the front office.
“I don’t think it should be good enough to be close to a playoff team,” said Henrik Sedin. “I think this is a team that can qualify for the playoffs and that has to be the expectation every year in this market.”
For professional athletes, this lack of belief in others can actually start a fire beneath them. There is nothing better in sport than to prove the skeptics wrong. It turns out that there are a lot of skeptics this time around.
Let’s take a look at some of the posts and models that have predicted the NHL rankings for the 2021-22 season.
Let’s start at the top with USA Today, which predicts 86 points and a fifth place for the Canucks in the Pacific division. In fact, they have the Canucks behind the Los Angeles Kings, leveraging their pool of prospects and youngsters to bolster their core veterans this season.
They note the Canucks’ improved depth; obviously they don’t think it will be enough. The last time there was an 82-game season, it took 90 points to advance to the playoffs in last place for the Western Conference Wild Cards.
NESN also sees a fifth place in the boxes for the Canucks, also behind kings. “There’s far too much talent in Vancouver for them to be bad,” says writer Logan Mullen, “but that hasn’t stopped them from stinking before, so we’re skeptical until they prove that ‘they can put it all together.
“There never seems to be a lack of drama in Vancouver, which is both a tribute to their long-suffering fan base and a potential distraction for players,” Adam Proteau told The Hockey News, although he attributes to general manager Jim Benning off season.
“Vancouver has intriguing young talent and improved forward depth, but defense is a major question mark,” NBC Sports’ Adam Gretz said, which is an accurate assessment.
When i checked betting odds before the season, however, the odds were slightly more in the Canucks’ favor. They still didn’t have the Canucks in the top 16 in the NHL, but they were top 3 in the Pacific Division, and that’s all it takes to qualify for the playoffs.
Next is the analytical models, where things get really tough for the Canucks. Not a single model puts the Canucks above fifth in the Pacific. Their highest ranked in the NHL is 18th and neither model has the Canucks even a 50% chance of qualifying for the playoffs.
Dom Luszczyszyn’s model at Athletic projects 87.1 points for the Canucks and a 31% chance of making the playoffs. According to his role model, the Canucks have the worst defense in the NHL and that was before Travis Hamonic showed up to training camp and was sidelined.
Still, there is hope.
“Ekman-Larsson can’t realistically expect to regain his peak form, but with a fresh start and a new environment, it’s pretty easy to see a scenario in which he might surpass his projected number,” Thomas Drance said. and Harman Dayal in the Canucks Season Sneak Peek Using Luszczyszyn’s Model.
Micah Blake McCurdy, who runs analytics site HockeyViz, brought the Canucks to a 42% chance of qualifying for the playoffs, the highest among these models. One of the biggest impacts of his role comes from the Canucks’ goaltenders, who also rank well above average thanks to Thatcher Demko.
FiveThirtyEight, best known for their political projections, have floundered through the racket of NHL projections this season. Based on 50,000 simulations of the season, they predict the Canucks will finish fifth in the Pacific with 87 points and 38% chance of qualifying for the playoffs.
The most bearish pattern on the Canucks comes from the Evolving Hockey twins. Their model projects 83.5 points for the Canucks, a fifth place in the Pacific and just 21.9% playoff chances. It’s dark.
However, they also predict that the Pacific will, on average, have the lowest points total in the NHL. There is an opportunity to make the playoffs even with a less than stellar record.
MoneyPuck’s model focuses on percentages and does not project point totals. Still, it’s easy to guess that the Canucks shouldn’t get many points with a sixth place and 37.7% playoff chance.
The model also predicts a 1.4% chance that the Canucks will win the Stanley Cup this season, which is far better than 1 in a million. So they tell you that there is a chance.
The ranking of the TopDownHockey project is not far from that of Evolving Hockey for the Canucks: a bit more points, a place less in the Pacific and the NHL, and a slightly higher chance of making the playoffs.
“You’d think the addition of Conor Garland, a sneaky driving sniper who is above average across the board, would mean this team has improved,” said Patrick Bacon, the man behind TopDownHockey. “But adding Oliver Ekman-Larsson, an aging defenseman who should do bad things in the big minutes, is more than enough to make up for that gain. “
Finally, JFreshHockey has the highest points projected for the Canucks using its WAR list generator (Wins Above Replacement): 93 points. That still isn’t enough for them to qualify for the playoffs as he projects them to finish fifth in the Pacific.
On average, models project 87.5 points for the Canucks. Would you like to get the upper hand or the lower one?
The Canucks, at least, are betting everything on the end.